The Spencer Law Firm, PLLC

Return to Light Duty After a Texas Workers' Comp Injury, Does Your Employer Have to Hire You?

By Amanda Spencer on June 23, 2016

The short answer is no. But, the short answer never covers everything, of course. In Texas, when a worker is able to return to light duty while treating for a work injury, the employer must either provide light-duty work, or the Carrier may be obligated to pay Temporary Income Benefits in certain circumstances. Those circumstances depend on whether or not the injured worker has been placed at maximum medical improvement, whether or not the injured worker was terminated for cause, whether or not the injured worker is a seasonal or school district employee and a lot of other factors.

Texas is a right to work state, which means that an employer does not have to retain any employee it does not want. That broad statement is of course followed by its own list of exceptions, such as, the termination generally cannot be discriminatory against a protected class (age, race, sex, etc.). The laws involving wrongful termination are vast and riddled with qualification, exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions. However, the Texas Labor Code 451 does create protections for employees terminated for filing a workers’ compensation clam or retaining a workers’ compensation attorney under some circumstances. If you feel you have been wrongfully terminated due to a workers’ compensation injury, you should contact a competent attorney right away, because there are deadlines that may apply to your case.

Aside from wrongful termination, workers’ compensation has its own remedies that may be available to injured workers’ who are refused light work after an injury. Under workers’ compensation, you may be entitled to full or partial income benefits. That means that accepting light-duty work doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your temporary income benefits. If 70% of your gross weekly earnings are less than 70% of your gross average pre-injury weekly wage, you may be entitled to partial income benefits to make up the difference.

Turning down light-duty work can have a negative impact on your workers’ compensation benefits. In Texas, you can lose your right to collect temporary income benefits if you refuse to accept suitable work that is consistent with your light duty restrictions. That being said, if you accept a light duty bona fide offer of employment, that binds your employer to the same terms and they should not assign you duties that are outside your work restrictions. If they do, contact your doctor and your lawyer right away.

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